Three longtails, Thailand
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Buying a SIM Card or eSIM in Thailand

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Like much of the rest of Southeast Asia, Thailand offers an awful lot to travelers. Beautiful beaches and landscapes, great weather, fantastic food, and low prices make it an appealing destination, and many millions of visitors flock to the country every year.

For those looking to stay connected in the Land of Smiles, buying a local SIM card as a tourist is a fairly straightforward and inexpensive process. Data allowances are quite generous, and you’ll get decent speeds and good coverage almost anywhere you’re likely to be.

In the last couple of years, though, travel eSIM companies have started providing some serious competition. Prices and coverage are good, and the setup and registration process is faster and requires far less of your personal information.

I’ve spent years traveling through the country, from busy cities to quiet islands and isolated national parks. Having tried all the major companies, I’ve found the best Thai SIM cards and eSIMs for most visitors, whether you’re on a short vacation or staying for weeks or months at a time.

Here’s everything you need to know.


  • I recommend AIS for most travelers who want a physical SIM
  • Consider TrueMove or Happy if you’re not venturing too far off the beaten track
  • An eSIM from Nomad is the best option if you only need data (some plans also include a local number)

There are three cell networks in Thailand, operated by dtac, AIS, and TrueMove. While you can also buy SIM cards and service from resellers, there’s little point in doing so for most visitors.

AIS has the best coverage and largest market share, plus a large network of Wi-Fi hotspots you can access as part of the more expensive packages. It seems like you’re rarely far from one of these hotspots in any good-sized city or town, and they don’t count towards your mobile data allowance.

Prices are only slightly more expensive than the competition, so if you’re traveling to less-populated parts of the country, AIS SIM cards are the best option for most people, with LTE coverage widely available.

5G is being rolled out, although it’s still confined to major cities at this stage. Most international visitors are unlikely to have phones that support the right frequencies for 5G in Thailand, and given that 4G/LTE is cheaper, much more widespread, and often still pretty fast, it’s not something to worry too much about at this stage.

I’ve also used TrueMove and dtac’s Happy prepaid services, with TrueMove in particular often a little cheaper than the others. Both provided good coverage and speeds in towns and cities, but there were some service gaps in rural areas and on less-populated islands.

So, in short: if you want the greatest coverage, go for AIS. If you’re not heading too far off the beaten track, any of the three major suppliers will do the job, with TrueMove typically being a bit cheaper than the other two.

Travel eSIM for Thailand

As I mentioned, travel eSIM companies have recently started providing real competition to local carriers. That’s especially true because unlike in most of the rest of the world, a few plans come with local phone numbers, not just data.

I’ve used a whole bunch of different eSIM services around the world, with some companies being much better in certain countries in others. That’s true in Thailand as well: the top pick is obvious.

No matter how long you’re in the country for or how much data you need, Nomad almost always has the best pricing and the widest range of data packages. One or two of those packages also come with a phone number and unlimited domestic calls.

If you’re new to eSIMs, they offer big benefits to travelers in terms of how quickly, easily, and (often) cheaply you can get connected when you arrive in a new country. Most recent phones support them, and you can read all about them here.

How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Thailand

Like many other things in Thailand, buying a SIM card is quite simple, especially if you fly into either of Bangkok’s airports. At both Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, all three cell companies have booths beside each other in the arrival hall.

The booths at Suvarnabhumi are often busy, with long lines for all providers. Staff are efficient and the lines move fairly quickly, but if you’re tired and grumpy after a long flight, it’s not the most enjoyable experience.

dtac (Happy) has a self-service machine right beside its booth in the main arrival area, which takes cards and Thai baht notes. Customers generally seem to ignore it despite the long line for counter service, so it’s a good option if you don’t need assistance.

SIM card kiosks at BKK airport
SIM card booths at Suvarnabhumi airport

It’s possible to buy SIMs at other international airports in Thailand as well, including Phuket and Chiang Mai. Many of the airport SIM card stalls shut down during the pandemic, but with tourism back in full swing, they’ve all reopened again.

You used to be able to buy a wider range of SIM card packages at standard prices at the 7-11 near the Airport Rail Link entrance in the basement of Suvarnabhumi airport, but when I last enquired, I was only offered tourist SIMs at the same price as the booths in the arrival hall.

If lines are long at the main counters and you need to take a train into the city anyway, it might be worth getting your SIM at that airport 7-11, but otherwise it’s not worth the effort of heading down there.

If you don’t mind spending a bit more to be connected quickly and easily when you first arrive, feel free to pick up one of these tourist SIM card packages (or even better, a travel eSIM).

If saving money is more of a priority, you’ll get better deals at convenience stores and official retail shops outside the airport. No matter where you buy your SIM card, though, you’re going to have to hand over more personal information than you’d likely choose to.

Thailand bought in stricter requirements for buying SIMs a few years ago, which means the days of just handing over cash at the corner store are gone. Foreigners now need to provide their passport and have their photo taken as part of the registration process.

I’m not a fan of onerous identification requirements like these. Unless you’re buying from a street vendor and are happy with a used SIM that could be shut off at any time, however, or just buy a travel eSIM instead, you’re pretty much stuck with it.

On the upside, the rest of the process was relatively painless. At the AIS store, I took a number for an English-speaking sales rep, picked a call/text/data package from a printed brochure at the counter, and handed over the money.

The rep did the rest, including activating the SIM, loading my credit onto it, and selecting the right package. It took about ten minutes in total, and the SIM worked immediately.

At the 7-11, I asked for a basic SIM card, then picked a package from a list on the cashier’s screen. After paying for the card and a voucher to cover the total amount, I installed the SIM and added the credit using the instructions on the voucher.

Finally, the cashier gave me the right text code to enter for the package I was after, which activated immediately. Again, the process took about ten minutes.

At the airports, because the options are more limited (typically half a dozen packages, mostly based around how long you’ll be in the country), the process is even simpler. Hand over your phone and passport, pick a package, and pay.

The cashier will install, register, and check the SIM is working properly. Cards (both foreign and local) and cash are accepted.

Don’t want to wait until you arrive in Thailand to get your prepaid SIM card? Buy it in advance instead! SIMOptions ships AIS SIM cards worldwide, letting you get set up ahead of time and connect when you land. Find out more here.

Prepaid SIM and eSIM Costs

Most of the tourist SIM cards sold at airports in Thailand offer “unlimited” data packages. With them, you get a certain amount of high-speed data, and greatly-reduced speeds after that. A small amount of call credit may or may not be included.

Prices and details change all the time, but the below photo of the various plans on offer at the Happy stand at Suvarnabhumi airport baggage reclaim give a good idea of the kind of thing you can expect.

In summary, you either get truly unlimited data capped to a particular speed, or a set amount of data at full speed followed by unlimited amounts of slower data, for a certain length of time. They all come with some sort of domestic call allowance as well, in the form of call credit or a number of minutes.

AIS had broadly similar pricing, albeit with some variation in data allowances and validity periods, while TrueMove was slightly cheaper. None are great value compared to travel eSIMs or purchasing outside the airport, but they’re still relatively inexpensive by global standards.

If you’re happy to wait, buy your SIM card from a convenience store or official outlet elsewhere in Thailand instead. There, you’ll have access to the full range of call, text, and data packages. They are many and varied, with validity ranging from a day to a month or more.

Note that if you’re planning to buy from a convenience store, not all chains sell all SIM cards. 7-11 doesn’t sell AIS SIMs, for example, and a Tesco Lotus store I walked into near Don Mueang didn’t sell SIM cards at all.

I usually buy from convenience stores, but have made the effort to seek out an AIS store in a mall in Bangkok in the past. Unless you happen to be staying close to one, there’s no real need to do this: it takes longer and any cost saving will be minimal.

In the interests of research on my last two trips, I decided to buy Happy and TrueMove SIMs at the airport rather than going for my usual AIS option in town.

On the first one, knowing I’d be in Thailand for a couple of months, I went for the Happy 899 baht package shown in the photo above. That gave 60GB of high-speed data each month, valid for 90 days, and I didn’t come close to using that amount of data!

On a shorter trip later in the year, I picked up a TrueMove 299 baht package with 5GB of data, valid for 15 days, before jumping on a bus headed south. If was doing either trip again, however, I’d just buy an eSIM from Nomad before boarding the plane.


As I say, while there are a whole bunch of eSIM companies with service in Thailand (I’ve compared many of them in the past), Nomad really does have the best pricing and wider range of options.

For the sake of comparison, though, and because offers and deals change all the time, here’s how the better companies stack up.

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 15 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

  • 10 GB

Price (USD)

  • $5

  • $12

  • $19

  • $34

Validity Period

  • 10 days

  • 15 days

Data Amount

  • 50 GB

  • Unlimited

Price (USD)

  • $9.90

  • $19.95

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 10 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

  • 45 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 50 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

  • 10 GB

  • 15 GB

  • 30 GB

  • 40 GB

  • 50 GB

  • 20 GB

Price (USD)

  • $4

  • $8

  • $11

  • $14

  • $20

  • $26

  • $80

  • $110

  • $125

  • $30

Topping Up


You can buy top-ups pretty much anywhere in Thailand, including many convenience stores, AIS retail locations, and several other places. Just keep an eye out for the AIS/1-2-Call logo. It’s also possible to top up online with a credit/debit card on the AIS website.

No matter how you top up, you may then need to purchase or renew the actual package you want to use. Be sure to do this, as the default call, text, and data rates aren’t particularly cheap.

Call *777# from your phone for an interactive menu that lets you choose your package. To switch your AIS SIM from Thai to English, enter *700*9*7*2# and wait a minute or two for the confirmation text.


Topping up with Nomad (or any of the other travel eSIM companies) is done by logging into the website or app. You just select your Thailand eSIM, hit the top-up button, and buy the same package again.

The top-up packs have exactly the same pricing and duration as the original eSIMs: there’s little difference between topping up your current eSIM and buying a new one, other than not having to activate it.

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Coverage and Data Speeds

AIS coverage is good almost anywhere you’re likely to go as a tourist, and much of the rest of the country as well.

I’ve had full signal most of the time in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, and other provincial capitals, as well as on bus and scooter trips in the countryside and on several islands. I even had service for a while after crossing the border into Cambodia, at least until I got outside the range of the last Thai cell tower.

It’s also worth mentioning the high speeds of the AIS SUPER WI-FI network. I regularly saw over 150Mbps downloads from it, and since it doesn’t count towards your data allowance, it’s worth using this network if your SIM package includes access to it.

Cell data speeds are reasonable, but definitely vary depending on where you are. I had much faster LTE speeds in Chiang Mai than Bangkok, for instance.

AIS LTE speeds in central Bangkok
AIS LTE speeds in central Bangkok
AIS LTE speeds in central Chiang Mai
AIS LTE speeds in Chiang Mai

As mentioned earlier, TrueMove and dtac/Happy coverage and speeds are good in populated areas but can drop off in more isolated spots.

Traveling through the Trang island group with a TrueMove SIM, for instance, LTE availability was hit or miss, although I usually (but not always) had 3G/HSPA+ service with usable but not fast speeds. 4G/LTE speeds in Phuket, however, were very quick.

TrueMove LTE speeds in Phuket
TrueMove LTE speeds in Phuket

With a Happy SIM, LTE download speeds were pretty good in Bangkok and Hua Hin, only occasionally slowing down to any noticeable degree. Upload speeds weren’t as impressive, but they were still enough for video calls and anything else I wanted to do.

Downloads were even faster in Krabi and Ao Nang, and remained surprisingly quick on popular nearby islands like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. Speeds were also good on Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao, with reliable service everywhere except a few of the more isolated spots in the center of the islands.

Happy LTE speeds in Bangkok

Nomad eSIMs use the AIS and DTAC networks. Some packages use just one or the other network, while others will connect to whichever one is in range. Just double-check the fine print of the pack you’re buying if you want to know for sure.

Check out our guides to SIM cards and eSIMs in 65+ other countries here.

All photos and screenshots via author

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  1. Avatar Zab Scoon says:

    Hi Dave,

    A great guide to buying a SIM in Thailand. It worked exactly as you mentioned and the prices are spot on. On mainland Thailand it’s easy to go to the AIS stores. Check out their offers. Sam got 1 week pass with 1GB of data and BHT50 for calls FREE. If you arrive on some of the islands first like Koh Lipe or Koh Lanta the 7 Elevens seem to run out of the best SIMs quite often, just a heads up. I purchased my SIM in a 7 Eleven on Koh Lanta and had 2GB and BHT50 for calls during our month stay in Thailand which lasted right up to the last day!

  2. Hi Dave,
    I just want to update information. The account identification has been required every store. I heard that it must do due to the government policy. Besides, there’re 4G services in Thailand since the beginning of this year. I and my friend went to Thailand for 2 weeks last month. My iPad is WiFi-only model, but my accommodation has not WiFI. So, I rented mobile router called – ThaiSims. It provided unlimited data (I don’t know how much GB). Then, my iPad can connect internet everywhere, not only in the hotel. It priced 5$/day. I and my friend equally paid. So, it’s just 2.5$/day!

    1. Dave Dean Dave Dean says:

      Hi Kitty,

      Thanks for the update. I have to say I’m not surprised to hear the passport/ID requirement is being more strictly enforced under the current political regime.

      Regarding LTE — yep, True has had good LTE coverage for a while, and DTAC has limited service. AIS didn’t start offering LTE until this year (2016), so I’d expect it’ll be a while before you regularly see it outside Bangkok and a few other cities.

      For anyone wanting to use LTE with AIS, remember you’ll also need a phone that supports the 1800Mhz frequency — most North American phones won’t, for instance.

  3. Hi .
    If aperson will came again in thai land after 5 or6 month .this sim card will work next time if recharg? thank.s

  4. my son is going to Thailand to teach English this Sept for at least 6 months…trying to fig out best plan/ card for him for data/text/voice(he has to call me of course!) I’m really confused

    1. Dave Dean Dave Dean says:

      There’s not a great deal of price difference between the various SIM card options, especially if he’ll be in the country for a few months. Around $10/month will get him 2GB of data and a few local calls and texts, as long as he buys the SIM from a 7-11 or cell company rather than at the airport. If he needs more data each month, there are larger packages available too. As mentioned in the article, I like AIS because it has wide network coverage, and also gives you access to loads of Wi-fi hotspots in the cities.

      For calling you, I’d recommend he uses Skype (or something similar, like Facetime) to save money.

  5. Avatar Al Stairs says:

    Good morning:

    I currently am living in Bangkok and just wanted to provide an update. I too like AIS, and all the family are using a tourist SIM. There has been a recent change where AIS and 7/11 are no longer affiliated. You can however top up the AIS cards at Family Mart locations, which are also very plentiful around Bangkok. You can also top up via the AIS website and using a credit card, something I do regularly.

    1. Dave Dean Dave Dean says:

      Thanks for the info, Al! I’ve updated the post to reflect this change.

  6. If I understand this correctly, to enable my laptop I need a GMS phone with a AIS sim card to teather to my laptop. Or is there another way?

    1. Dave Dean Dave Dean says:

      That’s one way of doing it, yup (it’s GSM, by the way, not GMS). You can also use a USB dongle that plugs into your laptop with a local SIM card inside it, or more commonly, a hotspot/Mi-Fi device with a local SIM that lets you connect 5-10 other devices to it via its own wireless network.

      The key thing with either of them is making sure they aren’t locked to a specific carrier in whatever country you buy it in, so you can use them with local SIM cards anywhere in the world. Typically, you’re best to buy from Amazon or another retailer, rather than the cell company, for that reason.

  7. Hi Dave!
    Thanks for this informative posts!

    Would you please recommend the cheapest package of 1-2 Call for me? I will be staying in the city center so I’m sure I can find Family Mart around the area.

    I’m using a 4G enabled phone with 1800Mhz frequency. I need a fast connection (1.5 GB and up) and not so much on call for 7 days 6 nights in BKK.

    I’m also considering the 7 day tourist sim if there’s not much difference with the price as compared to the 1-2 Call sim in local stores.

    Thanks a lot! God bless.

    1. Dave Dean Dave Dean says:

      Hi Hendel,

      I haven’t been to Thailand for a while, unfortunately, so I don’t have first hand experience of what the current package pricing looks like. That said, the link I gave above ( should be pretty accurate.

      There will certainly be a difference between the tourist SIM price at the airport and what’s available at local stores elsewhere, but you’re not talking large sums either way for a 7 day stay.

      1. Avatar Adrian Langford says:

        Hi Dave,
        I am in Hua Hin, Thailand and need a SIM card for a long stay (6 months++).
        Are there AIS cell packages available here and what would you suggest as
        a package for staying in touch with my family and clients back in the States without
        going broke? I already use WhatsApp and Line. Sometimes though there are those
        situations when someone needs to call me and use my regular phone number.
        Talking of (phone number) is there any way to get a repetitive number as much
        as possible? I know that there are auctions for such things (phone numbers) —
        can I get at least maybe the last 4 digits or any digits in my new Thai number that are repetitive? I need to know asap as I am purchasing a SIM card this week.
        Thanks for your help — AL

      2. AIS packages are available in Hua Hin, at the same prices as elsewhere in the country. You just top up each month as usual.

        Regarding calling, and being called by, US numbers, I’d suggest Skype Calling or Google Voice. You can get a US number for free or a few bucks a month, and have it ring on your phone for free, or redirect to your Thai number for a few cents a minute. Similarly, you can call US numbers for free (Google Voice) or a few cents a minute (Skype).

        I’ve no idea about getting repetitive numbers, sorry. You can probably choose from the range of available numbers at the store you buy your SIM from, but they may not have anything particularly memorable.

  8. Been in Bangkok for 5 hrs now and not found the sim I want.

    The airport only sold 7 day sims that were more expensive than quoted on here and the local 7/11s didn’t have stock and the family mart didn’t have the 1-2-c in stock and the 7 day one I decided to get as a last resort they couldn’t register online so they wouldn’t sell it to me!

    1. Did you ever get it to work ?
      Thanks. Arriving in the 15th.

  9. Avatar Chris Taylor says:

    Last year 7-Eleven fell out with AIS over fees and no longer stock AIS products or offer a top-up service – they are now TrueMove retailers.

    The easiest place to top up your credit is Tesco Lotus who are everywhere – I’ve never tried Family Mart…

    1. Purely convenience/laziness. 🙂 The AIS kiosk at Bangkok airport will only sell you tourist packages. If you’re happy to wait until you get into the city, you can buy the standard packages. Given the endless lines at that kiosk, apparently many people can’t wait to get connected!

  10. Hi Dave, thanks for the very helpful article! I’m struggling to find info on buying an AIS SIM within Phuket International Airport, are you able to offer any insight? Thanks in advance! – Cindy

    1. I’ve been through Phuket airport a few times, although not for maybe three years now. There really isn’t much there in the way of useful shops — a few (bad) restaurants, money changers etc. I don’t remember having seen anywhere selling SIM cards — but then again, I wasn’t particularly looking for them there either.

      I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying I don’t really have much insight for you! 🙂

  11. Hello Dave,
    I am going to Thailand in April. I will be traveling to Bangkok and a few other cities for 2 weeks. Which plan do you recomemnd? Most of the words are in Thai on thier website and I can not read it. I have no problem waiting to go to 1 of the stores to buy a sim. Also should I buy the 2 week traveler sim for 599THB or even the 7 day one, until I can get a better deal?

    1. I’ll be back in Thailand in a couple of weeks, and will update pricing etc soon after — I don’t have new recommendations, but the post will be updated before you travel. 🙂

      Regarding the traveler SIM, I don’t recommend it unless you absolutely need to have a local SIM before you leave the airport, both because of the higher prices, and the lengthy wait to buy one at the kiosks at Bangkok airport.

      1. Thank you Dave!
        I agree and I hope your trip goes well. I will wait to go into town to get one. Like you said, by then you will have price updates before I leave to to there. First I Need to get A phone. lol

  12. Hi Dave, any updates in recommendations and prices, going in a couple of weeks for a month.

    Thanks, Mike

    1. Hi Mike,

      Prices and recommendations are up to date as of the publication date of the post (two weeks ago).

  13. My husband is in Phuket now. He travelled on March 9 2018 and will be there until March 13, 2018. But he said that last evening he tried to buy sim card in Phuket and it was not sold to foreigner due to government regulation prohibit foreigner to have Thai Sim Card and they have to find local people to buy it and have to register the local people ID as a prove to that. Is that really that difficult and sounds horrible . Thank you.

    1. I suspect whoever told him that was either trying to scam him, or just wrong. I’m in Thailand currently, and bought a SIM at an official AIS store in Bangkok a few weeks ago with no problem whatsoever.

  14. Thank you so much for your reply. I will remind him about this. Thank you, Sir

  15. Avatar Patrick Chan says:

    As a Thai nationals, never buy sim card from airport. If you’re big user of internet, go to the store and buy Unlimited data instead, especially DTAC, you could get benefits from it.

    1. Avatar Patrick Chan says:

      P.S. if your phone is sim-locked, try to buy a WiFi card from TRUE, it has 6 mbps unlimited! you can use any public places that has True WiFi! but i recommend you buy TRUE WiFi on the internet

      you can get up to 200mbps!

      I recommend you to get that, and don’t buy a crap turist sim card, it ain’t worth it.

  16. Thank you so much for the tips. Will be travelling to thailand next week and your article gave us the idea.

  17. Thank you, DaveDean, for your excellent advice on which SIM to buy and where best to buy it while on holiday in Thailand! As suggested, I think I’ll wait till I get into Bangkok city.
    Do you know what time the AIS stores are open until in the malls on a Saturday/Sunday? I land at 6.30pm on Saturday.

    1. Shops are open pretty late in the malls in Thailand, even at weekends, but by the time you get through the airport and into the city, the AIS stores could be closed. If so, they’ll be open again whenever the mall opens on Sunday, though (often around 10am), so just head in then.

  18. Hi Dave, thanks for all that great info! Apologies for my lack of tech knowledge, sorry if this is a silly question… I’m in Phuket for 4-5 weeks fitness training and as it’s so very wet, there’s unfortunately a lot of down time after training spent indoors on Netflix and streaming movies online etc (I’ve been here many times so sightseeing in the rain = not a priority). The hotel WiFi isn’t terribly good for keeping up with this level of data, so do you think it’d be worth buying a data package somewhere to make it easier? Or does that kind of internet use take up way more data & need more download speed than it’d be worth? At this point I’m thinking it’d be worth it for 800B or so to stop it dropping out all the time ?

    1. Hi Rachel,

      Honestly, I suspect that if you’re streaming Netflix etc for a few hours most days, you’ll burn through your high-speed allowance on the “unlimited” packages quite quickly. After that, you’ll be on a much slower, throttled speed that likely won’t be much/any better than your hotel Wi-fi. Buying add-on packs for large amounts of high-speed data will also get pretty expensive.

      One thing worth checking is whether you can see any of the Wi-fi networks provided by the phone companies from your hotel room. The AIS SUPER WI-FI network is extremely fast, but most of the other ones should still provide better speeds than your hotel by the sound of it. Consider buying whatever cell package you need that also gives access to that provider’s Wi-fi hotspots, and you might be in luck. No promises, but it might help you out.

  19. Thanks for that tip, I’ll check it out ? I thought that might be the case with that amount of data usage. It’s more of a guesthouse than a hotel as such, and there’s only 15 rooms, but I guess all 3 of their WiFi options are just overloaded with everyone doing the same thing in their down time after training. ?‍♀️?‍♀️

    Thankfully the sun’s been out a bit more lately which means less need to be stuck indoors on Netflix anyway! ??

  20. Hi, AIS have an offer on at the moment for 32gb data at 4mbps for 100bt – if you add 50bt for the sim card that’s 150bt for 32gb data, a total bargain. I got this at the ais store in Chiang Mai.

  21. Good day guys would anyone be able to tell me if the AIS kiosk at suvarnabhumi airport bangkok is open 24hrs? My flight arrives at midnight and i am not sure if the vending machine at baggage is still available with the passport and photo requirements now.

    1. I don’t know if the kiosk is open 24 hours, but I wouldn’t be surprised at such a major airport. The passport and photo requirements were in place on my most recent trip through BKK, which is when I noticed the vending machine in the baggage hall — doesn’t necessarily mean it’s still there, of course. 🙂

  22. Hi,

    Thanks so much for the useful information. I have a US Cellular phone that is unlocked, so I now use it on the Spectrum
    Mobile network. Since it is unlocked, am I good to go once I get to Thailand? I read another blog that said I would need to have my phone Jailbroken. Also, is it easy to change out the SIM card or do you need a special tool?

    Thank you thank you!

    1. Hi Jolene,

      There’s no need for a jailbroken phone –being unlocked is all that’s required. The only thing you need to check is that it supports the right network frequencies for use in Thailand, so plug your exact phone model number into this site to find out.

      There is a specific tool for opening a SIM card slot, but if you don’t have one, a paperclip or earring will do the job. If you buy your SIM at the airport or an official phone store, though, the assistant will almost certainly swap it out for you.

  23. Hi Dave,

    I have an AIS tourist SIM. I am back home in Japan now from Thailand BUT heading back in 6 weeks. Can I top up from home on the AIS app and/or online and continue using the same SIM when I arrive or do tourist SIMs have expiry dates that can’t be extended no matter what? I searched around for info on this but couldn’t find anything. Thanks alot for your help.

    1. Hi Kyle,

      AIS SIM cards generally have a 90 day expiry (ie, if you don’t top up or use the card for 90 days, it stops working). You can certainly top up a tourist SIM after its initial validity period, so as far as I’m aware, it’s subject to the same 90-day expiry.

      That said, like you I can’t find any information that specifically references the expiry period for tourist SIMs one way or the other. Maybe trying topping up online with a small amount just before you head back to Thailand — if it works, you should be good to go!

  24. Avatar DANIEL WATERS says:

    Hello Dave,

    Thank you for this article and the various websites posted in it. I wanted to confirm something. Someone’s phone would need to be unlocked in order to do put a Thai Sim in, Correct? Have you or anyone on this thread used the website ( to buy sim before hand? has any one had any trouble using them?

    1. Yep, you’ll need an unlocked phone to use a local SIM card in Thailand (and elsewhere).

  25. Hello Dave,
    Thank you so much for the detailed information regarding SIM cards in Thailand. I will soon be making my first trip there. I will be spending some time in Thailand followed by Malaysia and then returning to Thailand. While in Malaysia I will need to obtain a Visa for re-entry to Thailand. This will require making an appointment at the Thai Embassy in Malaysia. I would like to make the appointment while still in Thailand. It requires that I be able to receive SMS messages. My question is can I receive these messages using a Thai SIM card, if the message is being sent from Malaysia? Thanks for any help you can provide!

    1. If you’re still in Thailand at the time, yes, you should be able to receive the text from Malaysia. If you’re in Malaysia with a Thai SIM, you’ll need to check with the provider whether you can roam and if so, whether you’ll need to add extra credit to receive texts overseas.

  26. Hi Dave,

    Do you recommend buying the SIM card ahead of time rather than waiting to buy in the airport? (i.e. the link you provided to purchase SIM card ahead of time). We will be arriving late, 11:55 pm, are the kiosks at the airport open at this time? I am questioning how you are allowed to buy the SIM cards ahead of time and get them shipped to your home if you are required to register with your passport. Thank you for you help!

    1. Hi Kaitlyn,

      Whether you should buy ahead of time is really up to you — it depends on your needs, budget, trip length, and whether you’re happy to go through the process of buying a SIM at the airport (or elsewhere).

      The booths should still be open at the time you arrive, but even if they aren’t, the automatic machines are available 24/7.

  27. Hi Dave,

    Great stuffs. I am glad I came across this site and read through the comments. This will be my 1st time buying a sim card oversea. Mine my ignorance. What do you mean the phone needs to be unlocked behind I can use the new card.

    Thanks in advance,

    1. In some parts of the world, it’s common for cell companies to provide a discounted or free phone when you sign up on a long-term contract. When that happens, the phone is usually locked to that carrier, so you can’t swap the SIM card out for one from a different carrier to save money.

      If you paid full price for the phone, it’s much less likely that it’s locked in this way. Some companies will also unlock the phone on request, especially if you’re out of contract. If you’re unsure, just contact the company you bought the phone from and ask.

  28. Hi Dave,

    Thank you for providing this information, it’s been so helpful.

    I’m due to fly to Thailand on 29th March and I’m looking to pick up a local sim, the deals at the airport seem pretty good – I think last time I paid around £10 for a SIM in Krabi. I’m curious to know if the SIM cards will support my apple cellular watch?

    My current plan in the UK allows me to use my data on both my iPhone and watch for an extra £3pm.


    1. You’ve got me stumped! I haven’t seen any mention of getting Apple Watch service with a prepaid SIM, even at the airport, where you think it’d be advertised if it was available. Digging around on the AIS website just now also hasn’t yielded much — you can certainly buy an Apple Watch in Thailand and get service with it, but I haven’t found anything yet that talks about adding service to an existing watch, prepaid or otherwise.

      So the short answer is: I don’t know, but I wouldn’t count on it. Definitely ask the staff at the counters at baggage reclaim when you get here, though — they’re all alongside each other, so it’ll only take a minute to check with all of them. On the upside, at least the model of Watch you have (assuming you’re from the UK, given the pricing in £) should physically be able to work in Thailand, if you can find a carrier that can provide you with service.

      Sorry I can’t be more help! I’m travelling around small islands where official carrier stores don’t exist at the moment, and won’t be back on the mainland until after you arrive, otherwise I’d pop in and ask. 🙂

  29. Thank you for sharing such useful information. I still have some more questions
    1) at current period , what are the bkk airport phone stores operation hours?
    2) If I buy the happy card package in the bkk airport (the 899thb package, we I need to take photos there?
    3) Any non-street vendor locations in bangkok where I can get ais sim without taking photos?

    1. 1. I don’t know, I’m afraid, but it’s relatively late – by the time I got to baggage reclaim it was after 10pm, and they were still operating then.

      2. The staff didn’t take my photo at the airport stand this time, but they did make a copy of my passport, which has my photo on it – same same I guess.

      3. I’m pretty sure it’s a government requirement, so if anyone sells you a SIM without taking your photo/copying your ID, chances are the SIM is an old one that’s registered to someone else. That’s not an issue in itself, but it also means you have no idea when it’ll stop working and can’t do much about it if it does. I’d be surprised if you can find a 7-11 etc that will bend the rules like that for you, but you might find a little phone store that would. It’ll take a bit of hunting around though – I don’t know of anywhere off the top of my head.

      If you’re averse to the registration requirements, and your phone supports it, consider an international eSIM (I mentioned one option in the article) – no need for photos etc with that.

  30. The photo of the Happy stand at Suvarnabhumi airport baggage reclaim, is this part of DTAC or is it independent of them, I know DTAC have their own ‘happy’ sim cards?

    1. Happy is just the brand name of Dtac’s prepaid service. It’s all the same carrier.

  31. Hi Dave,
    Sorry if this is a daft question but when you buy a Thai SIM at the airport or in a supermarket – do you get a new Thai phone number? If you do, does this mean you have to set up a new What’s app account and can’t get access to your old What’s app groups etc to make calls? I read that if you buy an eSIM you don’t get a new number, only data – so you can still make what’s app video calls using your old UK what’s app account. Is this correct? Just weighing up which is less hassle. Thanks, Claudine

    1. Hi Claudine,

      You will get a new Thai number, but there’s no need to switch WhatsApp to it. In brief, WhatsApp will keep working just fine with a different SIM card as long as you don’t need to re-verify the number (which typically only happens when you get a new phone or reinstall WhatsApp).

      I’ve had the same WhatsApp number for many years now, despite swapping SIMs once a month or so for much of that time. 🙂

  32. Do you really have to agree to get your photo taken for a sim card, its highly intrusive and makes me uncomfortable. If you refuse will they not give you one?

    1. While I’ve grumbled about the photo requirement to staff members, I’ve never flat-out refused to have it taken, so I can’t tell you the answer to that. Let us know how it went if you decide to take a stand!

      I would say, though, that to register a new SIM card in Thailand, it’s a legal requirement to take and store a photo or fingerprint that matches the ID (passport, in the case of foreigners) of the person it’s registered to. Given that, if you don’t want to have a photo taken, you’ll need to find a staff member that’s happy to register the card to themselves. Since one person can only register a maximum of five SIMs from one cell company, this may be a challenge.

  33. Hi Dave,
    Thanks so much for this it’s very helpful! I’m moving to Bangkok for 2 years in Dec, are there yearly phone contracts available in Thailand? or should I do prepaid for 2 years?
    I have an unlocked I-Phone that I’ll be using.
    Thanks, Sam

    1. I’m not sure about annual contracts, but monthly postpaid service is available (at least with AIS, and presumably others). Whether it’s worth it is debatable, though — you likely won’t save a lot on the actual service, but might get discounts on new phones or similar. I also don’t know exactly what you’ll need to sign up for it: depending on the carrier, you may need local bank accounts/cards, or some form of ID that isn’t a passport.

      It’s easy to switch from prepaid to postpaid, so I’d suggest starting out with prepaid and seeing how you go, and then wander into an official store and have a chat to a staff member about the benefits if you decide you want to go down the postpaid route.

  34. Will a True sim card bought 6 months ago work on a return visit, if so can it be topped up anywhere?

    1. If it was a tourist SIM, it will definitely have expired. If it was a standard prepaid SIM, there’s a chance it could still be active, but I wouldn’t count on it.

      If it is still active, however, you’ll be able to top it up anywhere that sells True credit.

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